What Is a Personal SWOT Analysis? A Simple Definition with Examples

What Is a Personal SWOT Analysis? A Simple Definition with Examples

Quoting Peter Drucker, author of the business classic “Managing Oneself”:

“It takes far more energy and work to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence.”

To achieve your highest level of performance and contribution, you need to know your own strengths and weaknesses, and you need to spend most of your time working on such strengths. 

Here’s where a personal SWOT analysis comes in handy. 

A SWOT analysis is often used in organizational strategic planning. In this article, we’ll show you how to implement it to improve both your personal and professional competence.

Let’s start with a basic question. 

What is a personal SWOT analysis?

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. 

It’s a planning technique that aims to help individuals better understand the current state of a specific situation to improve decision-making.

A typical SWOT analysis might look something like this:

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This technique is popular in business administration, as it gives you a clearer picture of all the elements involved in a given business decision. 

That said, you can use a SWOT analysis for many other purposes. For example:

You can also use it for any other activity that involves making a decision.

In short, a personal SWOT analysis will help you better understand any situation and get the most out of your time and resources.

By understanding your strengths and weaknesses, you’re able to turn such strengths into opportunities. You can also develop contingency plans to prevent your weaknesses from becoming real threats.

We’ll cover the actual process of developing a SWOT analysis in the real world, but first, let’s answer a crucial question. 

Why do you need a SWOT analysis?

Studies from Gallup suggest that 5 out of 10 employees in a given organization are not engaged — meaning they’re completely disconnected from their job. 

The same report says that 13% of an organization’s employees feel, at least, somewhat “miserable” at work.

This means that roughly 6 out of 10 people reading this guide are probably not so happy with their current job position. 

Even though there are many reasons for disengagement at work, one of the biggest ones is lack of satisfaction — feeling they aren’t contributing to anything important. 

Sadly, many people aren’t able to achieve their highest level of contribution because they don’t know themselves. 

They ignore, overlook, or discount their strengths and weaknesses.

Thus, they can’t take opportunities when they present themselves. 

That’s one of the reasons SWOT analyses are so valuable. They help you understand your current level of performance and identify areas of improvement in your personal life. 

By knowing yourself, you’ll be able to make better decisions in your business and career. 

And this is just one of the many reasons you should perform a personal SWOT analysis. Other important benefits include:

How to perform a SWOT analysis

Now that you understand the basics about a personal SWOT analysis, the question becomes: How can you actually perform one?

Let’s cover a basic seven-step process:

1. Define your success criteria

Like any other strategic process, you should start your SWOT analysis by setting goals. 

What are you trying to achieve in the first place? Are you looking for a new career path? Do you want to simply understand yourself a bit better? Do you want to start a new business? 

Take a moment to think about what you want to achieve and write down your goals using the SMART criteria.

SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. 

The SMART technique helps you answer some of the following questions when setting your goals:

This goal-setting framework is helpful for coming up with clearer goals for your SWOT analysis. 

For example:

“I want to start a new marketing agency and get my first paying client within the next three months.”

Let’s break down this example using the SMART criteria:

By setting clear goals prior to developing your SWOT analysis, you’ll be able to make decisions that are more aligned with such goals. 

2. Create a matrix

A SWOT analysis is often performed in a four-quadrant matrix. 

Each quadrant should represent the different elements involved in SWOT, which are:

The top two quadrants should include strengths and weaknesses, as both are internal factors (depend on you).

In the bottom two quadrants, you should include opportunities and threats, which are external factors (depend on factors outside of you).

Your final matrix should look something like this:

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At this point, don’t worry about completing the analysis. Simply create the structure of the matrix you’ll use later on.

3. Define your strengths

Now that you have structured your matrix, it’s time to perform the analysis. 

Even though there’s no specific order to follow, we suggest that you start with your strengths, as people tend to be more aware of their strengths compared to their weaknesses.

Now, what is a strength?

As we covered a bit earlier, a strength is anything you’re competent at. For instance:

Think about any strength you have and write it down in the “Strengths” quadrant.

If you’re struggling to come up with strengths, we suggest you ask a colleague, friend, business partner, or family member to give you some feedback. 

4. Define your weaknesses

With strengths in place, it’s time to complete the “Weaknesses” quadrant. 

Compared to strengths, though, weaknesses are often harder to come up with. Again, if you’re having a rough time, we suggest you collect feedback from external sources. 

That said, what is a weakness?

A weakness is anything that you are incompetent at. For example:

5. Identify opportunities

At this point, you already completed the two internal quadrants of your SWOT analysis. It’s time to complete the external ones, starting with external opportunities. 

An opportunity is any particular circumstance that’s favorable to you. That is something that can help you move towards your main goal.

Most of the time, you can’t control the opportunities you have. They present sporadically, and you must be ready to take them on when they do.

But you can’t take on opportunities you aren’t aware of, right?

That’s why you should start by exploring and brainstorming potential opportunities, which may include:

6. Identify threats

With opportunities in place, now it’s time to think about potential threats that may harm your ability to achieve your main goal. 

But what is a threat, you ask?

In short, any external circumstance that’s unfavorable to you. For example:

7. Invite your teammates to review your SWOT matrix and brainstorm ideas

Since you’re probably performing this exercise on your own, it’s pretty easy to fill your matrix with biased information, which may harm the effectiveness of your SWOT analysis. 

That’s why we suggest you bring in some external people to provide feedback on your ideas. 

Once you complete your initial analysis, schedule a meeting with your team or colleagues and ask them to review your matrix. 

Getting external input will help you “polish” the matrix and come up with more helpful and actionable insights for your decision-making. 

Ready to perform a SWOT analysis?

To manage yourself, you must first know yourself.

A personal SWOT analysis will help you identify your core strengths and weaknesses, as well as threats and opportunities surrounding your work and life. 

Hopefully, now you understand the process of performing a SWOT analysis with ease. 

Start by asking yourself:

The answers to these questions will help you start your personal SWOT analysis on the right foot and get it done faster. 

And if you want to take your skills and strengths to the next level, Pareto Labs can help you do it. To see for yourself, why don’t you take a look at our career development courses?